28 May 2024
Stockholm Diary: ‘Welcome to Sweden’
Featured Swedish Culture What's on: Stockholm

Stockholm Diary: ‘Welcome to Sweden’

Last night, a contingent from Your Living City attended the premiere of new comedy series Welcome to Sweden, which is, rather appropriately for all of us, about the experience of a foreigner moving to Sweden.

Hosted jointly by the American Club of Sweden and the American Women’s Club of Sweden, the party kicked off with welcome drinks at fancy Stureplan bar Miss Voon, where we spotted everyone from The Local’s David Landes to British ambassador Paul Johnston and of course the man of the hour Greg Poehler, looking dashing in a tux.

After a little catch up and people watching session (and by sheer coincidence, around the time the free wine dried up), we decided to head down to nearby Park cinema for the main event. For reasons that escape me now (and may or may not have been influenced by the aforementioned free wine), we decided to dash the block or so minus our coats… to be met by a giant queue and a long, chilly wait. We had perhaps not thought that one through.

Luckily we had just about defrosted (some popcorn helped) by the time Christal Jemdahl of the American Women’s Club welcomed us all to the event. Poehler then took to the stage with some stand up comedy about being an American in Sweden (“another school shooting, Greg, really?”) which was greeted with roars of laughter and recognition from the audience.

I especially liked the bit about people expecting him to take personal pride in Princess Madeleine’s marriage to an American (who turns out to really be British; for the record, as a Brit I don’t give a monkey’s either) and about attempting to coach a kids’ basketball team with limited Swedish (“Er…Bounca! … Passa! … Defend..a?”)

Then it was time for the show itself. Greg plays a New York accountant, Bruce, who falls in love with Swedish Emma (Josephine Bornebusch) and moves to Sweden to be with her. In the first episode he lands at Arlanda to discover that her city apartment is being renovated and they will be staying with her parents in the obligatory red clapboard Archipelago stuga.

I have to confess that the clip that’s been released online so far (in which he tells Emma’s parents that he plans to take a year to spend time with their daughter and find himself) didn’t really inspire me, but I’m pleased to be able to report that the rest of the show was therefore a pleasant surprise.

There were some real laughs (I loved Emma’s mother (Lena Olin)’s horror at how short Bruce is – she even moves some plates in the kitchen to a lower shelf so that he can reach them).

There were some stereotypes of course: could any expat in Sweden not have predicted the scene in which the bathing-suited American saunas uncomfortably with a bunch of Swedes, ahem, hanging loose? But on the other hand… can any expat in Sweden honestly say they haven’t experienced that?

Welcome to Sweden. 2014.

I thought it could have had a stronger episode story (he pretty much arrives in Sweden and a bunch of funny things happen), but that is often the inevitable weakness of a pilot episode, so I’ll reserve judgement for another episode or two.

In the post screening Q&A afterwards, Poehler talked about how the focus of the story is really the relationship between Bruce and Emma, and the culture clash aspect takes a back seat.

The Q&A then took a somewhat awesomely surreal turn, when a few people pitched their own love refugee experiences as alternative series ideas, Claes Månsson (who plays Emma’s father) seemed to announce that the best thing about the series was the weather they had to shoot in last summer (I’m fairly confident it was a translation issue, but it was hilarious all the same) and Greg was forced to insist that he does in fact have some friends in Sweden.

It was then another frosty sprint back to Miss Voon for after party drinks, where the buzz around the bar was positive. It was generally agreed that expats would find a lot to identify with in the show, and that it will be a relief to be able to say to family and friends:

“Remember that time I tried to describe a kräftskiva and you just looked at me as though I had lost my mind? Well, watch this…”

Welcome to Sweden premieres this Friday at 21:30 on TV4. I recommend checking it out!


Images: TV4 and Linus Hallsénius/TV4

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